When I joined the Columban Lay Missionary orientation program in 2002, I knew that my decision entailed a lot of letting go. I knew that there will be special occasions at home that I would miss. This includes one of the most important gatherings, a time to be home, a time with family during Christmas. Since 2003, I have only spent two Christmases with my family: 2009 and 2016. Sadly, 2009 was my mom's last Christmas before she passed away.
For millions of Filipinos, Christmas is a celebration of the family. They come together from around the world; they delight in the togetherness and sharing of respect. They honor the aged, bless the children, and feed the hungry. They fill the churches with light, song and festival, and they have joyful celebrations. They recall the story of that astounding child who became the greatest person to influence the history of the human race for the good.
I am standing in the center of the spacious main hall, the atrium, of the new Preda children's home for girls. The light from the transparent roof throws its soft and gentle light on the children playing nosily, shouting in glee. They are happy, running about, playing games, and laughing, cheerful and joyful. They had a sumptuous Christmas dinner and gifts and new clothes. They are the lucky ones to have found refuge and protection and a chance to start their childhood over.
They come at evening, scenes from far away, The bitter-sweet of absence and of love, When memory opens her halls of yesterday, And draws her shuttered curtains from above.
Taken from the poem Mission Memories by Columban Fr. John McFadden (1894 – 1978), these lines capture his bittersweet mood as he prepares to celebrate Christmas back home in the U.S. after many years in foreign mission lands. During the long December evenings, memories of Christmas celebrations in those far away places flood his heart, bringing joy and sadness, tears and smiles.
As Christmas approaches, many people have similar experiences. At unexpected moments, memories of a childhood Christmas gift
I was reading a Biblical reflection when word came that my niece's baby had just been born. The author of the reflection pointed out that the first sound we hear in the Bible is God breathing in the darkness. My thoughts wandered to my niece's baby breathing in the darkness for nine months. Gradually I came to realize that both mysteries are related.
Last year, I was visiting Monasterboice, an Irish monastic settlement that dates back to the fifth century, with a group of Australian pilgrims who were on pilgrimage in the footsteps of St. Columban.
“This Advent season invites us to gently prepare our hearts to receive the Son of God.”
Reflecting on his visit to small-town America, one writer listed some of the very appealing traits of that society – the warmth of the people, their politeness, their way of affirming one. But it also struck him that this was a society in a great hurry. “The biggest single crisis,” he wrote, “the biggest cultural deficit resulting from all this hurry, is the inability to be still, to face oneself in silence, just to be in the moment.”
When Dan O'Connor first arrived at the Columban House in Lahore, Pakistan, in 1983, he was greeted with "There's a Kiwi in the house!" And indeed he was a "Kiwi" hailing from Hokitika on New Zealand's South Island. He had been posted to Pakistan for two years on the Columban Overseas Training Program.
In February of this year Fr. Charlie Duster was admitted to the hospital where he was informed a short time later that he was terminally ill. During the following weeks, with the same zeal with which he had lived his missionary life, he prepared himself to meet God face to face. He also bid farewell to family and friends, and took care of important personal matters.
Among his treasured possessions was a chalice and paten that had been given to him as a gift by his parents, Charles and Cleo Duster, on the occasion of his ordination and first Mass in December 1961. These precious gifts had traveled with him on his various missionary journeys around the world during his 55 years of priesthood. In fidelity to the